Friday, September 13, 2013

Colombia: A country where everything happens and nothing ever happens

Opinion article by: Catalina Tamayo Posada* (
Economics students at Universidad EAFIT, Colombia

If you think about it you will realize that it is actually true. Some many things happen in this magnificent land but we, the Colombians, do nothing about it. It is not necessary to go back in time to see that indifference has always been part of our culture. For instance, the agricultural strike.  For almost 3 weeks Colombian farmers and workers from different sectors have been protesting against the Government because of the lack of policies that can protect them and their products. A lot of people argue that all of these protests are only because of the free trade agreements (FTA), but they are not. The problem in Colombia, as I said before, is the enormous absence of policies that can protect and stimulate our own products.
This whole situation has made me ask myself, why don’t we pay attention to the agriculture sector if, for a country like Colombia with all the resources we have, truly investing in it can actually make us more competitive?
Prof. Juan Carlos López Díaz (Universidad EAFIT)
In a conversation with Prof. Juan Carlos Lopez (Director of the Study Group in Business History), we could evidence that this problem has always been there but less has been done to try to solve it, this is what I call indifference. He spoke about what he denominates the three stadiums of industrialization which are the pre-industrialization, the industrialization and the post-industrialization. The first stadium refers to the period where gathering resources from coffee growers and traders established the basis for the industrialization. In addition to this, the war of a thousand days forced the creation of new industries such as the textiles, foods and brewers. All of these circumstances led to the second stadium, which denotes the time of the actual industrialization that is the change from the agriculture to the manufactures. For so long Antioquia was the leader region in terms of industrialization, but after the Second World War and because of issues such as the centralization of the country and the narco-terrorism situation, many companies emigrated to the capital, Bogota, and to Cali. And finally, the services sector is what Prof. Juan Carlos Lopez Díez may call the third stadium. This sector has gained a huge importance because almost all the products require the services sector in one or more ways. In the Colombian case, I think that, in a rush to be as industrialized as other countries, we changed so fast to the manufactures that we did not give the primary sector enough time to fully develop and left it completely forgotten.
What is done is done and there is nothing that we can do to change the past, but it is possible to do something to have a brighter future. It is necessary, and fair, to focus on what we think can make us more competitive. Personally, I do not think that is a matter of choosing whether centering on the agro or the industries. It is about making them work out together, creating value chains, especially on the areas that Colombia has strength on, for example coffee, oil, mining, bananas and flowers.
In conclusion, I would like to say that in order to achieve this enormous goal, we must do an giant effort to invest in technology, infrastructure and education, make more technical the crops in order to be more efficient, reinforce our institutions, and create fair policies that can benefit our farmers. This way we can fully compete in global markets and make our economy grow.

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